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Thursday, 15 March, 2001, 10:23 GMT
Can Nato keep the peace in the Balkans?
Nato soldiers are struggling to contain the border fighting between ethnic Albanian rebels and troops from the former Yugoslav republic of Macedonia.
The tension in the border area, where Kosovo, Macedonia and Serbia meet, has escalated in the past few weeks and there are fears that it could lead to another regional conflict in the Balkans.
Critics of Nato say the actions of the Alliance have helped to fuel the ethnic Albanians' desire for independence in areas in which they predominate.
Now they face the possibility of Albanian separatism running out of control.
Can Nato keep the peace in the Balkans? What should the Alliance do about the escalating violence?
This debate is now closed. Read a selection of your comments below.
James Roberts, England
History is not important. Human lives are important. So, let us leave history behind. Macedonia is building a modern and multicultural society. National rights will be fulfilled along with individual rights. Albanian extremists are against this model, they want the division of Macedonia on ethnic principles.
Nato must persevere!
Frank Southwood, USA
We try and help people but give them an inch and they take a yard. If people behave like ungrateful kids we should get out.
Poverty, unequal opportunities, discrimination have characterised the lives of ethnic Albanians in the former Yugoslav territories - Kosova and Macedonia.
Economic development, jobs, equal opportunities, individual values rather than racial, ethnic or religious ones, are notions that have to become part of living in Macedonia.
It is clear that Nato has failed again. Albanian terrorists are a danger for the whole region. Their idea about a greater Albania and ignorance of American political leadership will be the main reason for a new war in the Balkans. But in this war Nato, or at least its members from Europe, will be forced to support Serbia which is the only credible factor in the region, especially now, with the new and democratic government.
The European politicians are stupid.
They have eliminated all their boundaries between their states, but are now trying to separate Kosovan Albanians from their brothers in Western Macedonia.
Nato is trying to build a new Berlin Wall between brothers but they will fail.
The K-For troops are a bunch of cowards who do not dare say a word to the Albanians. They just watch them passing by with their guns and do nothing. What kind of peacekeepers are they?
George B, UK
I do agree with Mr Rahul Mahajan. The Albanian extremists are a much greater danger for the West as a whole than Mr Milosevic could ever become. He was but a regular public money embezzler - a thief, nothing more. But for Mr Clinton's stupid policies and hysterical propaganda in the mass media, more sober-minded people in the West could have seen this danger earlier.
What happened in Bosnia was that the UN were so concerned with not taking sides that they effectively acted for the RS by placing an arms embargo on the country, while the Serb and Croats could still obtain weapons from their "homelands". The Bosnians, however were completely isolated. Srebrenica is an example of UN "impartiality" gone to extreme lengths.
If Nato countries want to pursue this line in future, they will turn the Southern Balkans into the same mess as they have done in BiH. However, if they identify the aggressor, warn them, and then punish any infringements of local sovereignty, they at least be doing some good.
To understand the problems in the present-day Balkans one must investigate the past. Since 1912 the Albanians have been robbed of their identity. Over 65% of the Albanian people were left in 4 different countries, Montenegro, Kosova, Macedonia and Ceneria. I thought the borders of a particular country should encompass that ethnic race. They were doomed from the start because the world wanted a "Greater Serbia".
Ted Heath, New Zealand
Seeing as British troops are there without there having been a vote in Parliament, perhaps we should ask 'should they be there in the first place?'
Mike from England says, "that people hate each other". Who told you that? I am Macedonian, but I do not hate and I do not see why I should hate anyone in my country. I have Albanian and Serbian friends here.
My girlfriend is Albanian, I am a Slav Macedonian. We have problems in our relationship because it is "forbidden". I ask you as representatives of Western democracy, please let there be peace because we can live together. Just support the side of peace and dialogue.
I believe that for as long as the human rights of the respective countries and their populations are not recognised and accepted there will be no peece. No matter what Nato can or cannot do, people will speak the truth. Europe has ignored the Balkans or manipulated its politics without much success for the past century.
We should take our boys back home and let Europe to deal with the Balkans.
Nato and UN involvement in the Balkans should never have been looked upon as a short term project. The action in Kosovo by them in '99, would inevitably have an impact on its neighbour. It has to be admitted that we have contributed to this latest trouble in the region and should therefore have a responsibility for resolving it. Albanian demands for a Greater Albania have to be stopped, before there can be stability and lasting peace anywhere in the Balkans. Macedonia has avoided war so far, it doesn't want one now.
A great general once said that "the Balkans are not worth the bones of one marauding grenadier". He was right.
The Balkans will never calm down unless Europe becomes one country and all government is moved to Brussels. In theory the Balkans would have to calm down or the EU army would be down on them like a ton of bricks.
Nato and the new democratic Serbia must put their recent differences to one side. All democratic sides have an interest in regional stability. Nato, Serbia and Macedonia must co-ordinate their militaries to eliminate regional Albanian terrorism, before more lives are lost. Moreover, the current situation provides a good opportunity for reconciliation and partnership between NATO and Serbia.
It's high time that NATO countries, the US and the EU member countries realise that they might not be quite right in their assesment of the general situation in the region and that the methods they're imposing on all other parties may not be the best ones. In fact, practice has shown that foreign involvement in the Croatian, Bosnian wars and in the Kosovo conflict, by clearly taking sides and supporting one side while not even willing to listen (not to mention, understand) the other, did not resolve the problems. Look what has been done some 6-7 years following the Bosnian war - any improvement achieved so far? - Not any that I can see, but only widening of the gap between the communities involved. The same, even in a worse form, happened in Kosovo - no one can believe any more that you can ever put a Kosovo Albanian together with a Serb. But the public opinion of the Western countries still keeps on believing the heart-tearing stories of mistreated Albanians in the region.
Peter Nelson, USA
Why are we there? People should have realised long ago that these people hate each other and are unable to rise above that. Until they can, they will continue to kill each other and give more reason for the other side doing the same. I don't believe Nato really has the resources or willpower to do what is necessary to stop the fighting which would require a huge number of troops.
Can Nato keep the peace in the Balkans? Doesn't look like it, does it!
09 Mar 01 | Europe
Fighting traps Macedonian convoy
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